Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek told reporters on Monday that his party, the Civic Democrats, will push to have a general election on the earliest possible date if his government loses a no-confidence vote on Tuesday. Mr Topolánek rejected the idea of a caretaker government. The prime minister also turned down a proposal by the opposition that his government would remain in place until the end of the Czech EU presidency in June; Mirek Topolánek said he expected the president to name him, as the leader of the strongest party in the last election, to form a new cabinet.
The opposition Social Democrats have failed in four previous attempts to bring down the government in a vote of no-confidence.
The US media giant Time Warner will acquire a 31-percent stake in CME, a media corporation that owns the Czech Republic’s largest commercial station TV Nova, according to a statement issued by CME on Monday. Time Warner will pay over USD 241 million for the share. CME’s founder Ronald Lauder said that the alliance with Time Warner would accelerate CME’s development. Apart from the Nova in the Czech Republic, CME owns TV stations in Slovakia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Rumania and Ukraine.
Industrial production in the Czech Republic dropped by more than 23 percent year-on-year in January, decreasing for the fourth month in a row, according to government figures released on Monday. A decrease in production of transport machinery and equipment, along with a fall in construction, were the major factors behind the plunge. Meanwhile, civil engineering was one of the few industries that registered an increase. The average monthly wages in industry rose by two percent to just over 23,000 crowns, or more than 1,170 US dollars. Employers fear however that the unemployment rate could reach 10 percent by the end of the year.
In related news, the governor of the Czech National Bank Zdeněk Tůma told the British paper the Financial Times on Monday that Czech GDP may drop by two percent this year, provided that recession in Western Europe deepens. Mr Tůma’s forecast is much more pessimistic that the official estimate by the Czech central bank, which predicts that the county’s GDP will decrease by a mere 0.3 percent in 2009.
The Czech daily Hospodářské noviny reported on Monday that Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra had two legal firms assess whether a controversial art commission from earlier this year constituted fraud against the Czech government. They found no crime had been committed. In January, the Czech EU presidency unveiled the controversial work Entropa by Czech artist David Černý, who said it was the work of 27 different European artists. It soon came to light, however, that the piece, which pokes fun at the EU and European stereotypes, was largely the work of Mr Černý alone. The artist returned a two million crown commission and both he and Deputy Prime Minister Vondra apologised. Mr Vondra told Hospodářské noviny that that the government had only wanted to be sure regarding the possibility of fraud, saying there were no plans to pursue the matter in court.
The Czech Republic may receive 800 million crowns from the EU to cushion the impact of the economic crisis on the countryside, Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovič said on Monday. The funds, part of an EU recovery plan, are intended to make broadband internet accessible in the countryside, and to address new challenges including biodiversity, water resources management and renewable sources of energy. Mr Gandalovič said that some of the funds could be also used to address the problems facing the country’s milk producers.
The minister for human rights and minorities, Michael Kocáb, was tasked Monday with designing a strategy to combat social exclusion on behalf of the government. According to estimates by the Interior Ministry, around 80,000 people live in some 300 problem sites.
In related news, a Romany NGO called Gypsy Radical has begun monitoring neo-Nazi activities aimed against the Czech Republic’s Romany minority. According to Monday’s press release, the association’s goals also include getting the Romany community to act non-violently against neo-Nazis. On their website, Gypsy Radical published a review of neo-Nazi events that took place in the northern town of Litvínov in the last four months; the activists said policing of these neo-Nazi activities cost Czech tax-payers more than 10 million crowns, or more than 500,000 US dollars.
Foreigners were responsible for more than 20 percent of TB cases detected in the Czech Republic in 2008, the Czech News Agency reported on Monday. Last year, 835 cases of tuberculosis were discovered in the country, with 56 people dying of the disease. Experts say the situation could get worse as the state stopped paying for the revaccination of 11-year-olds; they also complain about poor health checks of migrant workers.
Cooking courses, organized by a prison in Znojmo, south Moravia, are attracting increasing numbers of inmates from prisons all over the country. The course, which lasts six months and cater for ten prisoners at a time, significantly raises the inmates’ chances of getting a job once they are released, a spokeswoman for the Znojmo jail said. In the last five years, about a hundred prisoners successfully graduated from the cooking courses. The Znojmo prison is the only one that offers them.
The start of the week will be cloudy and overcast with rain showers in places. The highest day temperatures will range between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius.